Disposable Landscapes
Disposable Landscapes East Feast 2012, Britinnia Community Center

East Feast is an annual event at which guests come and enjoy a special meal, and at the same time hear presentations from three selected artists, then vote on which presenter will be awarded up to $1,000 of funding toward their stated project. There is also live music. Overall, it is a great atmosphere and lots of fun for everyone. You can learn more about it here.

I was selected this year to present my Disposable Landscapes project. Although I was not selected for the funding, I did get a lot out of the presentation. I met some great people and got good feedback from the audience. I met some key people and got some great leads. Preparing for this event definitively took my project to the next level. The following is a transcription of my speech.

First, I’d like to recognize that we are on traditional Coast Salish territory and to thank our hosts for allowing us to be here.

I’m not that good at public speaking. I spent most of my time preparing these materials-I guess that is what I am good at-but I’ll give this my best shot.

East Vancouver, Strathcona and the Downtown East Side are neighborhoods rich in diversity, artistic talent and progressive thinking but at the same time, these neighborhoods struggle with the stigmas of poverty, homelessness, addiction and neglect.

Every Vancouverite, most Canadians and anyone who has ever heard about the Downtown East Side has an opinion on the situation. But most get their information from the media, or from preconceived ideas, misguided values, misinformation and romantic notions. Photos show the Downtown East Side without attitude, window-dressing, irony or narrative.

I moved to B.C. about 20 years ago and most of that time I’ve been living in East Van. I took up photography as a hobby when I was 19 and I’ve been taking photos ever since. The photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is credited with inventing Street Photography in 1937 said that your first 10,000 photos are your worst. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

I went to art school at Capilano University and I’m the managing Creative Director at a clothing manufacturing business in Strathcona. Photography, and this project especially -is kind of like a hobby, something I do on the side. Since I have a full time job that keeps me pretty busy, I’m happy to get whatever opportunity I can get. Events like this are a big deal and $1,000 will really go a long way.

About 10 years ago, I started to explore East Vancouver, taking more and more photos. That practice eventually led to Disposable Landscapes.

Disposable Landscapes is a compilation of photography, graphic design and street poetry collected and inspired by Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. It is a raw look into the city’s grittiest neighborhood - a record of messages that have come and gone, and a showcase of the built environment itself.

My goal is to give back to East Van. I’ve walked up and down all of the streets and alleys. There isn’t a square inch of this place that I have not explored.

A couple of years ago, I had these cards printed and started to leave them in the places that I take photos. When I leave them, they are like a calling card-and at the same time like a tag or graffiti, but something the person that finds it can take away. When someone finds a card, gets to my website and discovers the photos and other content, it is a serendipitous thing that happens and pretty much DIY and Guerrilla Marketing the whole way.

The cards are great when I travel; to leave at shops, up on bulletin boards and to give to people that I meet. I’ve used them in three Canadian cities, six U.S. states and five countries so far.

After doing the card thing for a couple of years, I want to be more direct; I want the happy accident of people discovering these photos and the take-away to be something tangible that can be taken home, put up on a wall, shared and enjoyed.

So I’ve developed a photo flip-book format that I can build myself, doesn’t cost too much money and is modular by design.

The photo flip-book is a group of 4 x 6 photos double-sided taped together, hole-punched and bound with plastic coil.

The purpose of the booklet, like the cards -is to place them and leave them for anyone to find.

Part of the project is to play on the notion of street art vs. fine art but more importantly; to re-contextualize the every day by presenting East Van back to itself as Art. The preconceived value and disconnect that comes with packaged art and the notion of a gallery as private property are examined.

My proposal for East Feast is that I’ll print 2,800 photos to build 200 photo flip-books like these. I’ll build at least twenty different versions, so the content will be diverse and varied.

In addition to building 200 photo flip-books and leaving them to be found by anyone, I will frame ten photos in frames like this one and again leave them to be found by anyone. The framed photos are a special take-away and have real value.

As a bonus, I’ll take anyone that is interested on a walking tour of the Downtown East Side. I’ll show you Street Photography techniques; I’ll show you color, light, texture, composition and bring you to parts of the neighborhood I’ve discovered that you may not know about or have visited. While we’re at it, we might just nail up a few framed photos and drop some flip-books. There is a sign-up sheet here, so in the few minutes that you have, come around and sign up!

In closing, I want to thank you for your time and patience. I’d really like to thank the organizers of East Feast, the musicians, the Chef, the volunteers, the other presenter, and all of you for coming here today to support independent artists.

With $1,000 you will help me give back to East Van by giving away art; to those that might not otherwise go to a gallery; to those that will benefit from a gift.

Thank You

Pecha Kucha Night Toronto; vol. 12, Jan 17 2012

Disposable Landscapes is a photo project based on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

This slide is a screenshot of the home page.

Each button links to a different slide show.

A big part of the project is street photography that I’ve found, photographed and transcribed.

Cold streets aren’t they?

The kind that goes all the way to the bone

stiff limb?

That doesn’t compare to them

those frigid people

with ice cube hearts

that have no warmth at all

devoid of the warm glow of love

now I say it again, cold streets, aren’t they?

Got deeper meaning from it now

don’t you?

HRW 2005

I’ll get back to this later.

Let’s start with a question: What is Vancouver?

Is it Douglas Coupland’s vision of a City of Glass?

Is it the city of hippies and yuppies that Lululemon pants come from?

Is it the most livable city in the world? The United Nations think so, right?

This is the guy in charge; Mayor Gregor Robertson, aka Mayor Moonbeam.

You may know him as Mr. Bike Lanes, Mr. Chicken Coops or DJ Gregor.

This is a real photo of the mayor riding on the back of an electric bike in the Pride Parade.

All I can say to you Toronto, is I’d like to see Rob Ford do this!

This is a map of Vancouver overlaid with a collection of stereotypes. It is very funny and kind of true.

I live in the part called “Lesbians”. I work in the part called “Lesbians/Poor People Overflow”.

The part called “Shit Show” is Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, aka The DTES, aka Skid Row, aka Canada’s Poorest Postal Code.

The DTES is hard to describe. It has a safe injection site, where you can legally shoot heroin. Crack pipes are handed out free. Survival sex trade workers are on every corner. Dealers and pimps are everywhere. Crack, Heroin, and Meth are everywhere. Violence, mental illness, poverty; it’s got it all!

But, the Downtown Eastside used to be a thriving middle class neighborhood.

Both photos shown here were taken on the same street corner. The one on the left by Fred Herzog in 1958, the one on the right a few weeks ago. Incidentally, that is right in front of Insite.

This slide is an old photo of the building on the corner of Main & Hastings. This building was originally opened as the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. The original Vancouver City Hall stood right next to it. Today, it is known on the street as “The Pharmacy”, a black market for Valium, Methadone, Oxicodene, T4’s, Ritalin, whatever.

The irony is that the Vancouver Police Department Headquarters is kitty-corner to it.

Just down the street from Main & Hastings once stood The Pantages; a vaudeville theater opened in the 20’s. It was closed in 1994 and left to rot until last summer, when it was torn down to make way for condos.

This is a slide of the original Abbot street Woodwards building. The Woodwards saga is probably the best example of the transformation of the DTES. Opened in 1902, it became Vancouver’s favorite department store. It was the anchor of dozens of mom and pop small businesses up and down the street.

When Woodwards closed in 1993, so did everything else, and the neighborhood started to downward spiral. The site was left vacant for ten years, but was briefly occupied as a tent city in 2002. In 2004, the city held a design competition for the site. Woodwards was demolished in 2006.

In it’s place, a shiny new development, made up of 536 market housing units and 200 social housing units. The tower on the right is social housing and it is really a dull, ugly concrete tower. On the right is the market housing tower, which is nicely decorated and quite nice.

But, even though a two bedroom apartment at Woodwards goes for $800,000.00, biohazard collection bins like this one are on every corner up and down the lanes, even on the same block!

The DTES is a “Shit-Show”. It was worse ten years ago, and in ten years from now, it might all be gone!

Most Vancouverites want the DTES to just go away, but I think it deserves a second look.

What do we lose when we tear down and gentrify the last affordable place to live?

in 40 years, what will we remember?

What will we have learned?

So I document, document, document. I take photos of everything; walls, doorways, signage. Even the homeless, the prostitutes, and even people doing drugs.

Along the way, I’ve discovered countless messages like this one scratched onto the walls and doorways of the DTES. They are sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but mostly enlightening and always important.

Holey fuck! I’ve been up for five

days straight which is too much but I’m

stubborn my bills keep coming

fuck all you grinders I’ll be

here 24/7 to pay my bills. Are you

willing to suck cock

to pay my bills? So fuck

fuck off grinders unless

you’re willing to suck cock!

24/7!

I probably walked by messages like this a thousand times before I stopped to read one and take it in.

If we look deeper; if we read between the lines, we find answers to a lot of the questions that we have about our culture and our city.

This slide shows Disposable Landscapes as a coffee-table book, which I am going for and as a gallery show, which I go for too.

Also shown are screenshots of the Tumblr blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, Vimeo page and Youtube channel, which is all basically marketing.

So look it up online, like it on Facebook, follow it on Twitter.

If you are a gallery, show these photos.

If you are a publisher, publish this book.

Look at it. Consider it. It might change the way you look at your city.

Thank You

http://disposablelandscapes.com/Oct-14-2011/Oct-14-2011.html
http://disposablelandscapes.com/Nov-05-2011-1-of-2/Nov-05-2011-1-of-2.html
http://disposablelandscapes.com/September-2010-1-of-2/September-2010-1-of-2.html
Disposable Landscapes

Disposable Landscapes is a photo project based on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). The format of Disposable Landscapes is everything from landscape, still-life and portrait photography; to interviews, exhibited photography, social commentary, artistic expression, a website, a blog, a video archive, and a coffee-table photo book of Vancouver.

The core of Disposable Landscapes is a collection of transcribed street poetry. Street poetry is the words, drawings and found objects left behind by the addicts, pimps, johns, prostitutes, homeless, and mentally ill residents of the DTES.

Vancouver’s DTES is unlike any other physical space in the world. Not only is it Canada’s poorest postal code and arguably the most blighted open-air drug market in the developed world, but it is also the one neighborhood that I’ve visited in which every alley, doorway and crawl-space is teeming with scrawled messages and drawings; sometimes crude, sometimes elegant.

Penned directly onto a wall or door, the DTES street poetry is graffiti, and is painted over by the city, like any tag. Disposable Landscapes is a project that finds street poetry and records it as a photograph or video. The Disposable Landscapes website, blog, video, books and exhibits are the medium that brings the messages of the DTES to the viewer. Once the poems and drawings are painted-over, the Disposable Landscapes photo or video may be the only remnant.

The city of Vancouver is called the best place in the world, but in the middle of our glass city is great suffering and loss. Vancouverites don’t think of the DTES as part of their city, and do not empathize with those that live there. If we read and consider the messages that are left for us in the DTES, we may understand the writer better. All of us do not understand the self-destructive nature of addiction and violence. Street poetry reveals the honest, raw truth.

The padding of Disposable Landscapes is photographic portraiture of the neighborhood itself. Sometimes ugly, sometimes pretty, the DTES has a distinct personality. Photos of the DTES show the history of Vancouver, and preserve a moment in time that could be right now, or decades past.

Every day, among those suffering is hope and grace. To understand the DTES, we need to study the big picture. Often the best way is to show a juxtaposition in a way that makes us look again. Disposable Landscapes includes images that show the absurdity of the human condition, and the strange irony of our lives.

The Welfare Millionnaire Vancouver
This is Dennis. Dennis is 63 years old. He  left school in Toronto at 16 to join a band. At once, Denis played all  the clubs with the greats in Toronto. Over 200 internationally  recognized artists, like Miles Davis know Denis by name, from playing  gigs when he was 16 to 21. He currently is playing for Stevie Wonder. He  has a 20 piece band with four drummers. The drummers pass sticks off  while they play. Dennis is the Canadian Michael Jackson. He was in  retirement for a period, but the Government called him up and asked for  him take on a two year tour, starting in 2012. When he was 21, he did a  year of exploration in Vancouver’s DTES. His adventures in that year are  the stories of his auto biography, which is about 700 pages so far. He  has his work saved on floppy disk. He doesn’t use the internet.

The Welfare Millionnaire Vancouver

This is Dennis. Dennis is 63 years old. He left school in Toronto at 16 to join a band. At once, Denis played all the clubs with the greats in Toronto. Over 200 internationally recognized artists, like Miles Davis know Denis by name, from playing gigs when he was 16 to 21. He currently is playing for Stevie Wonder. He has a 20 piece band with four drummers. The drummers pass sticks off while they play. Dennis is the Canadian Michael Jackson. He was in retirement for a period, but the Government called him up and asked for him take on a two year tour, starting in 2012. When he was 21, he did a year of exploration in Vancouver’s DTES. His adventures in that year are the stories of his auto biography, which is about 700 pages so far. He has his work saved on floppy disk. He doesn’t use the internet.

these photos were taken on July 07 and 07 2011

This is Satchel. He is a writer. He came out to Vancouver from Saskatoon, to spend summers on Wreck Beach. He completed the Naomi Project and was clean for three years, but relapsed on Heroin. He is on 12 cc’s of Methadone per day. He is afraid to quit, and shoots speed occasionally and smokes pot. He does not drink alcohol. He continues to write. I looked for his short story “diary of a hobo” on Geist, but was unable to find it.  

This is Satchel. He is a writer. He came out to Vancouver from Saskatoon, to spend summers on Wreck Beach. He completed the Naomi Project and was clean for three years, but relapsed on Heroin. He is on 12 cc’s of Methadone per day. He is afraid to quit, and shoots speed occasionally and smokes pot. He does not drink alcohol. He continues to write. I looked for his short story “diary of a hobo” on Geist, but was unable to find it.